I wonder, how can you ever tire of traveling? Each trip, whether a flight, mountain climb, trek or bus journey, are unique. Each has components made up of the people you engage with, the sites you see and the things you hear. Feelings also play a part, ie the only memory of a trip could be how hard the seat was. And no two individuals taking the same trip at the same time are going to have the same experience because individuality also plays a part.
My trip from Maun, Botswana to the Mamuno border crossing where you leave Botswana for Namibia was an unexpected delight. Not because things ran smoothly, the bus was on time and the transport was comfortable? No, none of those things happened. No, it was the people I met and the conversations I had that made this trip.
Firstly, the practicalities of the trip . . . I had been given the wrong time of departure so after the taxi from the Okavango Delta Lodge had dropped me off at the bus “station”, I had a four-hour wait. I asked two local girls , eight and thirteen years old if I was at the correct waiting spot and we chatted a little. They had a school book to read and I helped them with an understanding of some of the words.
Asking With Ease
The girls also tried to get me to buy them various items; luncheon sausage (which people buy and eat from the wrapping), water and three pairs of socks. I tried to give them a lesson on budgeting over asking money from strangers. They weren’t hard up and neither was the next person asking me for money. A young mother with two small children. Both were seen, off buying themselves things long after I’d said no. They had money, I guess they believed I had more than enough and that I ought to share.
No Husband, No Kids
I did invite another lovely local lady to come join me for a drink while we waited for the bus. We sat at Nando’s and I asked lots of questions as is my way. She was very religious, the only times she’d been to other countries; Namibia and South Africa were to hear famous pastors speak. She had an older and a younger sister both of which were married and had children. It quite surprised me when she said she was ok without either.
“I am independent, strong and happy the way I am”
There are not enough buses that go to Ghanzi (pronounced with an almost silent “g”) so it wasn’t a pleasant scene when the bus finally arrived. People pushing and shoving each other out of the way. I had heard of this happening so was prepared and held my own enough to actually get myself on the bus. This was when I found my next person that helped make this an interesting trip.
Bag Minder and Seat Saver
This particular lady had looked after my backpack when I’d gone off for coffee and she’d also managed to scramble onto the bus ahead of me and thoughtfully saved me a seat. I was so grateful because it saved me from me having to stay another night in Maun.
We had a great chat about life, being a woman, marriage and having children. She was a very attractive, local lady with a shaved head and dyed red hair. She told me she had a two-year-old son and wasn’t married. She said it was the way of the modern Botswana. That marriage is important but not as important as producing children and everyone was now doing that first. Marriage to her meant not just a husband but whole family commitments and responsibilities she wasn’t yet ready for. She is aching to have another child way before she was going to consider marrying. I didn’t ask if any or all of this was to be with one particular man.
“I’m a career woman, she told me, I have my own money, my security and my son, why do I need a man? He will want to control my money. No, I don’t want any of that” she said.
This last comment was followed by the tsking scoff sound that I love to hear Africans do, especially when it’s coupled with the eyebrow raise.
The van stopped at one stage and we all had to pile out and place our feet in a tray full of solution to fight a disease of which I’m not sure of the details. The van also had to drive through a solution.
Engen Petrol Station Supervisor
Once my strong, independent lady friend got off at Ghanzi I was left sitting next to a 25-year-old male who was a supervisor at the Engen Petrol Station at Charles Hill. This was a hilarious conversation between two people that just seemed to click on the same level of banter and humour. It started once I’d told him I had lived in Asia by him telling me he’d love an Asian girlfriend. I laughed and said, “yes you and so many other men.” The conversation continued onto his current girlfriend who isn’t Asian but who has cheated on him, or at least he thinks she has because all his other girlfriends have. But it’s ok because when he suspects they’re cheating he feels ok to cheat himself. He explained it like this:
“she has that thing, like a demon you know? The demon is inside her and then she passes that demon onto me, so I do it too”
Hhhmm, sounds like an excuse to play around to me but ok. He can be quite shy he told me to which I replied obviously not that shy with all the girlfriends he kept acquiring. He told me I was pretty good for my age and that he couldn’t understand how I was alone and with no kids. He also shared his concern with me, after receiving a phone call from his girlfriend, that he was feeling very tired and not sure he was going to be able to perform quite as well as she was going to want that evening. He also wanted to get married, didn’t talk about children but does want to have his own business together with his wife and listed a few examples of some businesses.
The bus finally got into Charles Hill only an hour late and it was sad to say goodbye to my third new and enlightening friend for the day. He had given me his number incase I couldn’t get across the border and needed somewhere to stay. “Don’t worry”, he told me, “I will tell my girlfriend to go home”.
For details on the quick route via Ghanzi, from Maun to the Botswana-Namibia border crossing near Charles Hill please read my other blog post.